Why Visibility Matters

In a recent post Megan Evans wrote about femme invisibility. As I was reading through the comments on that post, I was struck by some that seemed downright angry that we should want or dare think we deserve to be recognized as lesbians. Several people argued that perhaps our time would be better spent fighting for civil rights, fighting against bullying, suicide, bigotry, etc. Some of the commenters seemed angry that we should want to have visibility when these other, bigger issues are still such a problem.

This really bothered me, because visibility matters. It matters on many levels. How can we expect to change the world when we're invisible? How can we expect people to accept us, our queerness, our gayness, if they don't even realize that we fit into those categories?

There are actually two worlds in which I, as a femme lesbian, would love to be visible. First is the lesbian world. I would love to be recognized by my peers as a gay woman, not just passed over and assumed to be straight. What is so wrong with craving community among our peers? Nothing, as far as I can tell. I am so proud of the gay community and the brilliant and creative minds that are part of it. I am proud of our history and of the strength that our trailblazing predecessors displayed in their early fights for equality. I do my best to defend and fight for equality for the LGBT community. Why wouldn't I want to be simply recognized as part of it, not singled out, or held apart in any way for being a "femme," but simply and humbly accepted?

Then we have the straight world. Yes, I would like to shout to the entire world that I'm a lesbian, not because I want to be categorized by my sexual orientation, but because I believe visibility is vital. I believe that the more faces we put on the "gay community," the better it is for us. The more people look around and realize, "Oh, she's gay, too?" or, "I didn't think lesbians looked like that," the better. Only good can come from putting an even more diverse face on the LGBT community.

I don't understand when people get upset that femme lesbians have a desire to fit into gay culture and to be accepted, especially given that coming out and publicly claiming a queer label immediately sets one up for all the prejudice and inequality that the rest of the gay community receives. Why would you want to attack a woman for willingly taking on that sort of political and social backlash?

It is my firm belief that visibility matters. It matters on all levels, from the personal to the political. For one part of the community to attack another is divisive and harmful to the larger picture of equality for all.

Yes, fighting for civil rights is important. Yes, we must end bullying of our gay youth. Yes, there is a lot to do. But let's not put even more prejudice and more exclusionary tactics upon our own. Not to mention that the more types of lesbians, queers, trans, and gay people that are out in the world, the more faces our youth can look to and see themselves in. Maybe that alone can help a child realize that it does indeed get better.